Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

Lennon-Seney United Methodist church

History of LSUMC

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History of Our Church




In 1875, Seney Chapel was organized as the first African American Methodist Episcopal Church in Knoxville, TN. In 1881, ’The Little Brown Church’ (from which Lennon Methodist Church sprang) was organized. It was known as Mabry Street Methodist Episcopal Church prior to becoming ’The Little Brown Church.’ The name was changed to East Vine Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church at the quarterly conference in October 1906. Upon moving

to the present Dandridge and Wilder site, the name was changed again to Lennon Memorial Methodist Church.

These two congregations, under the leadership of Bishop L. Scott Allen, Began conversations toward the merger of Lennon Memorial and Seney United Methodist Churches. The Administrative Boards of Lennon and Seney met on September 9, 1974, to elect a committee from both churches to draw up a resolution proposal for the merger. The resolution was presented to the Charge Conference on November 6, 1974. All members of both churches were notified of Charge Conference Action on November 10, 1974. The merger was consummated by a vote of each church membership on January 5, 1975; therefore, on this date Seney Chapel and Lennon Memorial (just three blocks apart) merged, becoming Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church and the largest African-American fellowship in the Knoxville District and the Holston Conference.

     Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church

The worship service (January 5, 1975) in celebration of the merger and birth of the new Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church was held at 2084 Dandridge Avenue site. Pastor McKelvey opened the service with a “Declaration of Purpose.” Membership rolls from the former two churches were presented. Knoxville District Superintended G. Wayne Cummings posed the ritualistic question and statement with reference to the merger consummation. He also preached the sermon for this momentous occasion.

Walter H. McKelvey (1975 - 1979)

In its infancy under Rev. McKelvey, the “New Church” had many frustrations, mixed with uncertainties, hopes, and aspirations, as a result of major concerns effecting the merger and organization. Decisions had to be made about financial matters, the New Sanctuary Fund, the sales of Seney Church property and the parsonage, paving the parking area, and furnishing the educational facility.

The program goals which were established included:

1. Consistent prayer emphasis

2. Development of day-care center

3. Design of programs in evangelism, ethic church and world hunger

On April 9, 1978, the Rev. Raymond E. White, president of Morristown College, was the 11 a.m. speaker at a Dedication Service for pews, windows, and dorsal curtains in the new sanctuary. Laying of the comer-stone was also scheduled. Dr. B.B. St. Clark, District Superintendent, was the 4 p.m. speaker. Rev. McKelvey proposed that the 1978 program emphasis be on increasing the overall membership by 100, leadership training for local church leaders, and evangelism campaign.

From Lennon-Seney congregation, Ms. Velma G. Smith became the first African-American woman to be ordained (1978) by the Holston Conference.

In June 1979, Rev. McKelvey advised the Administrative Board that his tenure at Lennon-Seney had ended. His last sermon was given the third Sunday in June. He was appointed to the Western North Carolina Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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Paul Y. Marchbanks (1979 - 1987)

Rev. Marchbanks began his tenure of service July 1979. At the November Administrative Board meeting, he addressed the three major concerns of the church: financial obligations of the church, renewed interest in church school and worship, and increasing membership by 100 members.

In 1980, Mr. Bethel V. Hendricks, Jr. entered the ministry from Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church. He was ordained deacon, while Mrs. Velma G. Smith was ordained an elder the same year.

On January 16, 1981, Lennon-Seney had a kick-off banquet for the Centennial Celebration. The church purchased a van on November 2, 1981. This transportation ministry served Sunday School, Worship Services, Vacation Bible School, Retirees’ Mission, and various youth, adult, and senior citizens activities.

In 1982, many changes were made in the organization within the church. These included the recommendation of Dr. Marvelene C. Moore as Minister of Music, Director of Chancel Choir, Director of Children’s Choir and Bell Choir. She was hired; bells and music were purchased; and the bell choir was organized.

In 1983, Rev. Marchbanks was the pastor of three churches. The Administrative Board determined that he should be a full-time pastor at Lennon-Seney. This motion was presented to the District Superintendent, Dr. Robert Lundy.

On June 4, 1984, the Administrative Board approved the establishment of a $10,000 Scholarship Endowment Program commemorating Helen Goode, longtime public school teacher,  dedicated Sunday School Superintendent, and faithful church member. A committee was established to manage the program. Proceeds from $10,000 endowment would be for scholarships.

In 1984, the Trustee Board was given permission to explore possibilities for purchasing a new parsonage, since the estimate of cost was $30,000 to renovate the existing parsonage.

In 1986, the Trustee Board reported that Holston Conference had approved a loan of $75,000 at 8.5 percent interest for 10 years for the purchase of new parsonage located 6412 Mountain Laurel Road. Closing was scheduled for October 10, 1986.

Again, Rev. Marchbanks asked that major emphasis be placed on working with senior citizens and young adults, setting up new church school classes; increasing membership; and liquefying the church’s indebtedness. On April 7, 1987, the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, led by Mr. William Dirl, gave a detailed report to Rev. John E. Ripley, District Superintendent, of the following:

1. The membership and financial status of the church, history of organization, most recent building program, and the name of five more recent pastors.

2. The lay leadership, theological stance of the congregation, ministry to persons beyond the local church, recruitment of new members, membership termination, and a list of paid staff positions. A list included of characteristics the Committee wanted the Bishop’s Cabinet to consider in selecting a pastor.

Rev. Marchbanks reluctantly announced he was leaving to become the District Superintendent of the Tazewell, Virginia area.

The old Lennon-Seney parsonage was to be sold in June 1987. It was suggested that decisions on disbursements of those funds be delayed until the new pastor took office.

Dr. John Ripley, District Superintendent, apprised the Pastor-Relations Committee that Lennon-Seney would be a single appointment and that Martin Chapel would be pastured by Rev. E.D. Cole. The new pastor would serve as consultant of the Ethnic Minority Local Church Committee.                                                                                          back to top


Raymond E. White (1987 - 1997)

Dr. Raymond E. White became the pastor of Lennon-Seney and met with the Administration on July 14, 1987. The meeting had been called to elect a new treasurer. Mr. John Barnes was elected treasurer. His duties began August 1, 1987, after audit of the first six months.

The Staff-Parish Relations Committee presented a plan (dated August 25, 1987) authorizing the emphasis of the Pastor and the Committee for the first year of the Minister’s appointment. The Minister’s priorities would be:

1. Pastoral Care and Visitation/Counseling

2. Administration/Management of programs

3. Educational Ministries

In 1988, attendance in Sunday School and Church was the foremost concern, as well as the financial status of the church and leadership for the Young Peoples’ Choir and for the Chancel Choir.

Rev. White recommended that a committee on policy be inaugurated. This committee would be made up of chairpersons of: Administrative Board, Council of Ministries, Staff-Parish Relations, Finance, Board of Trustees, and the Secretary for the Committee on Nominations and Personnel.

New programs included a nursery. The Education Committee requested that the cottage be used for the nursery. Items were donated to the nursery by members as requested.

Lennon-Seney became the sponsor of the Black Community Development Program. Fifty-percent of the membership of the Board of Directors came from United Methodists and 50% came from the community and also included three ex-officio members. An organization meeting later would elect officers and set-up guidelines and procedures.

Long-range plans for improvements and a Building Program included the creation of a handicapped entrance; the renovation of the fellowship hall and moving the kitchen upstairs to adjoin the hall; reconfiguration of the downstairs rooms, offices, and Sunday School classrooms; renovation of the lounge and the choir room. These improvements were accomplished.

The following were major programs, actions and accomplishments for 1992:

“Vision 2000,” a Holston Conference emphasis, was undertaken by the Council on Ministries. Lennon-Seney’s “Vision 2000” model selected for study was “Evangelism - Extending Your Congregation’s Welcome.”

In May 1992, Lennon Seney projected a improvement program for the building. It would include conversion of the sanctuary heating system to gas; guttering; outside painting; rebuilding/replacing steps and walkways; heating and air system in thr parsonage and its basement. The Administrative Council accepted the recommendations for financing the Improvement Program and decided that the work would be under the direction of the Board of Trustees. In 1997, Rev. Raymond White was appointed Superintendent of the Knoxville District.                                                                                            back to top

James E. Jackson (1997 - 1998)

The appointment of James E. Jackson as pastor of Lennon-Seney in 1997, initiated a year of spiritual growth through sermons preached as a story. It also was a renewal of the Wednesday night Bible study. The Bible study sessions had an average attendance of 25. The highest attendance was 35 which was the most in church history.

Rev. Jackson took leave of absence from the Conference in 1998

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Alvin H. Smith (1998 - 1999)

Within the first month of Rev. Smith’s appointment, he held a church-wide brainstorming session so that members could participate in goal-setting for the church. An outcome was Wednesday Night Live, a ministry for children and youth. Rev. Smith continued the Wednesday evening Bible Study and reorganized and sang with the Gospel Choir.

Rev. Smith retired from the Conference in 1999.                                           back to top     


Daniel H. Taylor, Jr (1999 - 2003)

One of the first things Rev. Taylor told us upon his appointment was how to address him. He asked that we call him “Dan.” He said, “Reverend is what I do, not who I am. Call me Dan.” Under Dan’s leadership a new mid-day Bible Study was started on Wednesdays. Also, a change in meeting frequency was initiated. Some of the church committee and the Church Council opted to go a quarterly meeting schedule.

Because of Dan’s skills in music, he provided leadership in guiding the music ministry of our church. Our mass choir sang monthly, and the hand bell choir was reorganized.

Gifts to the church during Dan’s tenure allowed us to upgrade the kitchen and improve our landscape design. Further improvements were planned to our sound system and physical plant. A joint project with 100 Men of Knoxville provided a computer lab and a tutoring program that would open that Fall.

In the area of Missions, we sponsored a refugee family from Burundi. This was a joint project with our sister church-Washington Pike United Methodist Church, with which we developed an on-going relationship. We also, provided the Annual Conference with thirteen students for kits for the J.J. Roberts school in Liberia.

Sunday School, Youth and Children’s activities, United Methodist Women and Men continued to flourish. We had excellent and successful programs by the Children, Women, and Men. The Men’s Pancake Breakfast was second to none.

In 2003, Rev. Daniel H. Taylor, Jr. was appointed Superintendent of the Big Stone Gap District.                                                                                   back to top  or next page


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Text Box: Apostles Creed
Rev. Water Mckelvey
Rev. Paul Marchbanks
Rev. Raymond White
Rev. James Jackson
Rev. Alvin H. Smith
Rev. Daniel Taylor, Jr
Rev. Adam E. McKee, III
Rev. Angela M. Hardy-Cross